Being Wrong

There’s always a chance you’re wrong about something. There’s always a possibility your examiners believe you’re wrong. Until they ask they won’t be able to know either way.

Being wrong or being asked something because you might be wrong is not comfortable. It invites all sorts of feelings and worries.

Did you make a mistake in your research? Did you write something up incorrectly? Did you misunderstand? Were you unclear?


  • You’re not perfect.
  • Your research can’t be perfect.
  • Your thesis won’t be perfect.

There’s a chance that you’re wrong in some way but a much greater chance that if you are then you can make it right.

You can do the work. Do the work in your prep to figure out how to correct things. Do the work in the moment in the viva to clear up what you mean. Do the work while you talk to your examiners to explain something. Do the work to correct your thesis after the viva.

You might be wrong, that’s human – as is working to make things right.

The Wrong Thing

I can’t imagine what someone could say in the viva, without going to flippant extremes, that would be so wrong as to lead to a terrible outcome.

Wrong couldn’t be saying too little or too much; your examiners will help steer the conversation.

Wrong couldn’t simply be factual error – your examiners would rather check details than simply let an inaccuracy through.

Wrong couldn’t be the result of nerves: your examiners are human and would understand. They’d give you space to get past nerves.

Wrong couldn’t be simply saying “I don’t know” – that wouldn’t be wrong, that would just be not knowing something.

It would be wrong to be arrogant, it would be wrong to pick a fight, it would be wrong to assume that you know what’s what for everything connected to the viva!

But would you do that?

If you are worried, consider what you could do to lessen those worries. If you’re nervous, explore how to build your confidence.

And if you’re still worried about being wrong, remember that it’s far more likely that you would say the right thing than the wrong in your viva.

100% Wrong

It’s not likely, but if you find something that’s just wrong, then own up to it. Don’t lead with it in the viva, but go prepared. Make notes and figure out what would make it right. You don’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to have all the answers, but you can go with a sense of what you need to explain and explore things with your examiners.

Wrong doesn’t automatically mean you fail. Just because something isn’t right in your research, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.